Friday, February 01, 2013

Who’s checking my bin? - Notes from the Field

January 31, 2013
Area 1, Route 5
Field Staffer: Joyce Fountain

It’s still dark and navigating some of the streets in this Bethesda neighborhood can be tricky. “Mostly, I am just trying to find a parking place”, says Collections Field Staffer, Joyce Fountain. Obviously, she is new to the area – because trying to find parking in this area is a constant. On this windy morning, Ms. Fountain has arrived to conduct a Recycle Bin Survey before she begins her daily task of monitoring the County Collections Contractors.

However, she notices right away that many of the blue carts and bins have been knocked over by the wind and some of their contents have spilled to the ground.

Tipped-over cart and bin with recyclables in the street

"That’s 'Litter before Collection' ", she sighs. She knows that the contractors responsible for collection in this area will be getting calls from residents claiming that recyclables were left on the street, and that lids and cans were stolen. "Residents don’t understand that sometimes the weather conditions can cause these issues."

Ms. Fountain taking notes about her container observations for our recycling survey

Right now, Ms. Fountain must get her blue bin survey completed before the trucks start collecting. “The survey will tell us how effective the County is getting its recycling message out. I check each bin to see if there are only acceptable recyclable materials, is the paper bundled and separate from the glass, metal, and plastic like this one...

Finally, is there is any paper, trash or other unacceptable item in the bins?”, asks Ms. Fountain. In this area, most of the bins are in good shape. The biggest issues are foam containers and plastic bags – when set out curbside, both of these materials are trash.

Foam food container in blue recycling bin 

Plastic bags in blue recycling bin

"Many of the grocery stores in the area do recycle plastic bags.” She has to run ahead of this Potomac Disposal recycling truck to get her last house.

Recycling crew emptying a paper recycling cart into its truck

As I run along with her, our last house poses a question:

Inline skates in blue recycling bin

Do inline skates really belong in the recycle bin?

Answer:  no, they are trash.  If the skates are still usable, consider selling them online.

For more information on recycling visit our website.  Have a cracked blue bin? Call 311 or go online to request a new one!

-- posted by Jessica Fusillo, Collections Field Staff


  1. Anonymous4:06 PM

    I had no idea someone monitored so thoroughly.
    Good to know.

  2. Anonymous10:33 AM

    What exactly would happen to the in-line skates if they were placed in the recycle bin?

    1. They would end up as trash.

      The collection crew would most likely collect the skates along with the cans, bottles, jars, and containers. (In the case of the skates above, they were collected.) Then, the skates would be sorted out by the workers at the Recycling Center. Because the skates are mostly plastic and rubber, they would be put into a trash container.


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